Emanuel Shahaf

Quiet, we are shooting

While the guns are blazing and the missiles are falling it is inherently difficult to keep a political discussion alive. The gut feeling of many citizens is that this is not the time to raise divisive issues. OK, there are few issues in Israel that are not divisive and, as a noted sociologist once observed, there are few if any issues in Israel on which there is consensus at all, but speaking against the crowd when being shot at ?? Definitely, politically not correct. Fact, even the opposition has become as docile as a puppy not willing to risk alienating a public which cherishes unity and abhors divisiveness in times of war. As a politician, saying something out of tune these days is potentially lethal, an absolute no no. Believe me, I know.

Few and far between are the courageous souls who are willing to speak their mind these days.  If they do, they face very unpleasant reactions from the public and the government as well. And for some reason, I do suspect that the government does use public sentiment for its own purposes which include keeping critics as quiet as can be in trying times. No matter how misguided the policy, as long as the guns are blazing the government can expect to get the public’s unmitigated support. And it won’t have to do much to silence critics either, the public will gladly abide. That is, unless in the battlefield things aren’t going well. Once soldiers are getting hurt, the situation changes and it’s downhill from there.

Intimating in the middle of a war that our government cannot be absolved from its responsibility for the situation, is frought with problems. Traitor, quisling, self-loathing JINO (??), Judenrat are among the titles one gets credited with. It’s as if one cannot criticize the politicians for their madness while at the same time supporting the figthing troops or the population under fire. It’s as if when claiming that Netanyahu and his government didn’t do a thing for three and a half years, the national fighting spirit is undermined. It’s as if we cannot bear hearing two different messages, one that the government screwed up big time and the other one that we are supporting the troops, at the same time.

Why is that ? Why is criticism of the government acceptable only when things really turn bad ? Why can’t the government be criticized all the time ? May be, if we could criticize the government all the time, it would make a bigger effort not to screw up ?

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".